The singular difficulty of describing globalism is that it is an economic and political process which occurs between rather than within states, but the driving force of which are transnational corporations rather than the United Nations. In the introduction to a recent compilation of essays, "Corporate Social and Human Rights Responsibilities" (Karin Buhmann, Lynn Roseberry, Mette Morsing), "corporate social responsibility (CSR) is defined as " 'voluntary' business action". The move within the global market as defined by neoliberal theory toward congruence between the role of nation-based law and economic measurement is seen by the authors of these essays as being at the initiative of business. The interests of transnationals is in the streamlining of processes, a consideration often cited as the motivation of deregulation at the level of states. The role of the United Nations described in these essays is that of facilitator in developing international law and perhaps most interestingly accounting standards. The series of essays draws the reader through a process of understanding the role of "dialogue" between "stakeholders" (states, transnational corporations, and interests represented as or by non-governmental organization). The dialogue is metaphorical and actual, and a few of the authors note the power differentials often involved when states, institutions, companies, and interest groups operate from a more or less restricted purview and set of constraints relative to each other.
To weave things together requires identifying different strands and threads. The three main strands which the aforementioned compilation identify are those of the nation, of law and of finance. The threads which these strands share are the variously applicable concepts of the state and political context, legal systems and jurisdiction, transnational corporations, non-governmental organizations, and accounting standards.
These threads are woven into the strands of the global market, the continuum within which the "new world order" of neoliberalism develops: nation, law, and finance. The organization of these by TNCs subsumes them within the operations of the TNCs on the global stage. The result is "globalization" defined as a set of interests and functions of TNCs.
The first thread, the state and political context, is not developed within the scope of these essays. A certain conformity is assumed to already exist between states. Thus the term "state" is used somewhat axiomatically in a way which renders the concept of nationhood irrelevant to the discussion or perhaps even anachronistic. To understand the assumptions at work here I recommend another set of essays, "Globalization, Neo Conservative Policies, and Democratic Alternatives" (Ed. Akram-Lodhi, Chernomas, Sepehri). Essentially, states are the guarantor of rights despite the primary responsibility of companies (TNCs) in structuring the role of states within the framework of the global market. In other words, there is an assumed conformity of states to laying the ground for a global market in that their primary reason for existence is, in the eyes of TNCs and therefore also the UN to the extent that the Global Charter on Human Rights is applicable to TNCs, to enable the functioning of TNCs within the context of the merged domestic and international markets. It should be noted that neoconservatism has been largely the tool for rendering states indebted to transnational banking institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund). All discussion of legal and accounting standards should keep this context in mind: the creation of accounting norms formalizes the relationship of debt between sectors of the global market- a set of differences simultaneously structured for the promotion of the neoliberal agenda.
Some mention of "third world approaches to International Law" (TWAIL) is made by a couple of the contributors to the "CSHR" tome, and the concept of "reflexive law" is discussed. The notion of law as it is discussed here is similar to that of state in that differences between nations are relegated to secondary importance or rendered immaterial through the process of globalization. The interest of the TNCsin the "discourse" between stakeholders in developing reflexive and hard law in conjunction each other is obviously to emphasize the former to reflect consensus between TNCs and states expressed as "voluntary" standards for TNCs rather than requirements placed on TNCs by a state. The premise that CSR is voluntary assumes a uniformity of actual standards between states. Proponents of CSR argue that such standards are more likely to be imposed upon a state than to issue from a state's political institutions. This assumption is called into question when differences in the demographics of political power are seen as directly resulting from disparities of wealth between TNCs and foreign host states and the political constituency of a given country. While TWAIL is mentioned, the opposition of paradigm expressed through the definition of "neocolonialism" to neoliberalism is not discussed or mentioned.
Within the financial strand is the accounting thread. Most of the industrialized nations with the largest economies or within which the greatest amount of wealth is hoarded in the form of priveleged currency (e.g. Canada, Iceland, Greenland) have moved towards uniform accounting standards referred to as International Financial Accounting Standards. These standards are developed by a private institution called the International Accounting Standards Commission and its offshoot the International Accounting Standards Board. A quick check revealed that the U.S. is the only major industrialized nation not to adopt these standards. The Securities and Exchange Commission has suggested the possibility that the US participate in IFRS, especially given that many other nations such as Japan and Australia as well as the European Union have utilized them and contributed to their development.
The key categories of international law which have become integrated into accounting are environment and labor. The general concept here is that of "insurance". Companies are expected to essentially contribute to a capital fund which acts as a buffer to costs associated with projected liabilities. That is, the set-aside amount for each company may be based on the particular qualities of that company and its conditions of operation, but, the losses to a capital investor accumulated throughout the range of investments are not to exceed the amount compensated for by the added capital requirements of all investments under the terms of the IFAS.
I speculate that the lack of participation by the US in IFAS may result from the view of influential financiers that their interests are not represented by recognition of the definitions and standards required to express the real nature of private propery in units of value and the dollar currency in U.S. domestic market. I don't believe we can ignore the possibility that these standards serve the interest of US financiers when applied to what is effectively the field of investment within the neoliberal globalizing process. The evening out of differences so to speak may imply some greater degree of estimation, but the real differences do not threaten the utility of these measurements when gauged against an ongoing eroding of states' powers of measurement and regulation.
I believe the reality here is that the concept of reflexive law implies a liability of the host state of a TNC to limit liability of the investor (of whatever nation) to an amount considered mutually beneficial in some sense to both the industry and the state. The legal standards where they come in conflict with scientific standards are likely to hold more normative weight than disparate types of measurements of the same assets. The fundamental perspective of non-governmental organizations for example is not recognized as having independant authority outside of IFAS. The contribution of NGOs to IFAS therefore is likely to be one of contested measurements of value, expressed in terms of real value which may challenge ostensively long-term (if only recently implemented) financial market measurements in terms of currency. The impact of events including those not categorically or solely defined as market phenomenon such as natural or man-made disasters or labor strikes is expressed in different terms of value with respect to political or social concerns. The impact of a failed strike might be negligible to the capital investors of a company, but devastating to a community dependent upon employment by the company. The loss of equiptment due to change in ownership and dismantling of a manufacturing facility may also be negligible but have a devastating effect on a community which permanently looses a source of employment. The capital requirements devised to address vulnerability to labor and environmental regulations or legal liability may be used to facilitate change in ownership. I think these considerations reveal why the often adversarial relation between NGOs and TNCs nevertheless sees both attempting to influence and create global-scale baselines to express their interests.